As a writer the easiest thing to write right now would be a string of platitudes echoing popular sentiment concerning which players, coaches, front office personnel, and band members should hit the unemployment line at the end of the season (or sooner). As a fan the easiest thing to write right now would be a string of expletives echoing the string of expletives I unleashed toward my television earlier this afternoon.
I’ve been wracking my brain for a while now, trying to determine the best way to put into words some sort of constructive evaluation of what I saw today. I contemplated a compliment sandwich, but I gave that up when I realized I couldn’t come up with two positives. I thought about cataloging every bad play in detail, but I don’t think I have that much ink in my computer. Ultimately I concluded that there aren’t many conclusions to be drawn that haven’t been drawn before. Chan Gailey is good, but Mike Priefer is bad. We’ll be picking high in the draft, but the pickings will be slim in the free agent pool. Carl Peterson will still be GM. We will not be in the Super Bowl. There are some platitudes that do apply, however, so let’s make use of them.
PLATITUDE #1: GAMES ARE WON AND LOST IN THE TRENCHES
Kansas City registered no sacks, two quarterback hits, three tackles for loss, and two passes defensed. I’ve watched the game twice now. The tape confirms that there were indeed players wearing red on the field while Buffalo had the ball, even if the stats indicate otherwise. The problem is simple to diagnose, however. Our linemen engaged their linemen in immediate contact on nearly every play. Since our linebackers no longer blitz, opposing offensive linemen never have to release their principle assignment to block somebody else. Ergo any form of quarterback pressure comes only in the form of superhuman feats of strength or mistakes in blocking assignments.
I am in no way exonerating Gunther Cunningham, but I have to believe this is not the vision he has for this defense. The departure of Jared Allen is not the entirety of what crippled our pass rush. What crippled our pass rush is the departure of the blitz. Last year our starting linebackers combined for 7.5 sacks. This year they’ve accounted for 2.0. Gunther is a blitzing coordinator. He’s also a linebacker man. So why are ours doing so little? We speak so much of our offense being Hermcuffed. Is it possible that our head coach is an equal opportunity handicapper?
Gun will likely find himself out of work at the end of this season. This time there will be no welcome back party three years later. He’ll step foot in Arrowhead again only on the away team’s sideline, and, much like Mike Solari, it probably won’t be as a coordinator. I don’t know how much blame Herm deserves in all of this, but I do find it curious that only one of the five coordinators he parted ways with ever again found work as a coordinator. Something is rotten in Denmark.
Meanwhile, Buffalo registered three sacks, three quarterback hits, five tackles for loss, and six passes defensed. Offenses should crumble in the face of such adversity. Ours didn’t quite, but it didn’t hold together either. On paper the stats look good. We scored 31 points. Tyler Thigpen posted an 85.4 passer rating. Quinn Gray posted 145.8. Both Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles averaged 11 yards per carry. Four players had touchdown receptions. So what the hell happened? Here’s what….
PLATITUDE #2: WIN THE TURNOVER RATIO, WIN THE GAME
I know this hasn’t been the case for the Chiefs thus far this season, but maybe that’s attributable to other extenuating circumstances. Maybe for this team the platitude should be modified to “win the turnover ratio, avoid being embarrassed.” Three lost fumbles and two interceptions led to an abysmal time of possession (24:23). I won’t make the argument here that the defense got tired as a result because the defense didn’t play appreciably worse in the 4th quarter. Actually the 23 points scored in the 2nd quarter puts the kibosh on that line of reasoning.
But the flip side of that coin is this: if the offense isn’t on the field, they can’t score points. There’s no denying this offense can score points. I think they could put up arena league numbers under the right circumstances. I’m excited to see what Thigpen will do to Denver in two weeks. I’m sure he’s excited too–for once he’ll stand a halfway decent chance of not getting sacked. I think we have one of the better core groups of skill players in the league, and with a couple of upgrades on the offensive line I think we could return to glory sooner rather than later. But the offense has to be on the field to score. That means the defense has to force more three and outs, but it also means our young players can’t make boneheaded plays.
PLATITUDE #3: FIELD POSITION IS EVERYTHING
Bobby April is the best special teams coach in the NFL. I have as much admiration for him as I do for some of our better players. He could have taken the week off had he wanted to. His presence was not needed, but it was felt nonetheless. Buffalo’s average starting point was their 48. Ours was our 26. That was because we were turning the ball over and punting from our endzone, right? Nope. Discounting everything except kickoffs, their average starting point was their 41. Ours was our 25.
Mike Priefer must have been feeling the weight of the Chiefs nation on his shoulders, because Bob Gretz was called upon to write a piece in his defense earlier this week.
It didn’t help.
PLATITUDE #4: FIRE MIKE PRIEFER
Okay, that’s not a real football platitude, but it needed to be said. I believe in integrity in journalism.
Speaking of taking an Atlas pose, I’m beginning to see exactly what happened to Tamba Hali. He’s expected to be someone he’s not. He is not now, nor will he ever be Jared Allen. He is Tamba Hali. But now he’s a shell of his former self because he appears to be second guessing his instincts. He gets locked up too easily, changes direction to pursue receivers rather than going after the quarterback, and takes bad angles against linemen who are three or four inches taller than him. He still wins that battle often enough to be an effective defensive end, but he’s being asked to do it alone. Last year he had Jared Allen on the other side and either Derrick Johnson or Donnie Edwards behind him. Presently he has none of those luxuries, and nobody fears the awesome pass rush of Wallace Gilberry and Demorrio Williams. I hope that in the near future Chiefs fans will show him some leniency. Likewise, I hope that in the near future Chiefs coaches will show him some support.
PLATITUDE #5: SUPPORT YOUR TEAM, FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE
Now would be an easy time to jump ship. Now would be an easy time to stop attending games or turning off the television at halftime. Now would be an easy time to stop wearing red on Fridays in hopes of avoiding the jeers of your coworkers. Do none of the above. Instead, go to the game with a bag on your head. Speak ill of King Carl and his spray tan. Be harsh but fair in your criticism of the organization, but don’t withdraw your support from the players. They’re already demoralized. However nauseated you felt after watching what might amount to the worst loss in franchise history, I guarantee you there are 45 proud men wearing red who walked off that field with the same feeling, only tenfold. And tomorrow morning while you’re at work, they’ll be at work too, watching this game over and over, reliving every misstep a dozen times or more.
So listen to me and do as you’re told: even when it hurts, bleed red and gold.
Also, for those of you who are angry with me for referencing a Jimmy Buffet song in the title, trust me…. you’re nowhere near as angry with me as I am with myself.